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Photo of Shira

 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Origins of Reda Troupe Dances:
Part 11: The Reda Troupe Movies

 

by Shira

 

 

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Table of Contents

 

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About the Interview

On July 31, 2006, Mahmoud Reda agreed to an interview to discuss the origins of the dances used in Reda Troupe. The purpose of this interview was to clarify which aspects of Reda Troupe's work were drawn from actual folk sources, versus which arose from other inspiration.

My objective for the interview was to document Mr. Reda's process and experiences that shaped the work he created. I wanted to provide a primary source that others could reference when performing their own research into Reda Troupe and its place in Egyptian theatrical history. For purposes of these articles, it is not in my scope to critique his work or provide my personal analysis.

Mr. Reda expressed a preference that I not record the interview. He said he would speak more freely if I didn't capture it on tape. For that reason, I opted to take written notes by hand instead of recording. To ensure I had accurately captured the conversation, I gave him the opportunity to review the articles I wrote describing what he said in the interview and correct any errors I had made. This final version has been approved by him as accurately representing what he told me.

Mahmoud Reda

 

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Overview

"All of the movements are put in a frame called Egypt." - Mahmoud Reda, July 31, 2006.

Mahmoud Reda is often referred to as "the Fred Astaire of Egypt" because he not only choreographed stage presentations, he also starred along with Farida Fahmy and other members of Reda Troupe in three movies. These include:

  • Agazet Nos el Sana (Midyear Holiday)
  • Gharam fi al-Karnak (Love in Karnak)
  • Harami el Waraka (Thief of the Lottery Ticket)

According to Reda, "If you were to ask Farida Fahmy how many movies Reda Troupe made, she would tell you that there were only two. This is because Farida herself starred in the first two, but had only a bit part in the third one, so she doesn't consider the third one to be a Reda Troupe movie."

Reda found that creating dances for the silver screen was different from creating them for stage. One issue was the need to collaborate with a director whose needs could be different from those of the dancers. For example, a director might want some close-up shots, whereas a dance created for the stage is viewed from a distance by its audience.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The women of Reda Troupe pose at the end of a dance sequence in the movie Gharam fil-Karnak. Click on the image to see more detail.

Women

 

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Agazet Nos el Sana
(Midyear Holiday)

Agazet Nos el-Sana was the very first Reda Troupe movie. The title means "Midyear Holiday". The director was Ali Reda, who was the husband of Farida Fahmy and the brother of Mahmoud Reda. Ali had been working for some years in the Egyptian movie industry as an assistant director.

This motion picture was released in 1963, when Mahmoud Reda was 33 years old. For it, he served as actor, choreographer, and lead dancer.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: This is a still of a dance scene from the motion picture Agazet Nos el-Sana, featuring a duet by Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy. Click on the image to see more detail.

Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy

Reda was paid 1,000 Egyptian pounds for his contribution to this movie, which at the time had the buying power in Egypt approximately equivalent to what $4,000 would buy in the U.S. Farida Fahmy starred in a prominent role.

ABOUT THE PHOTOS: This photo shows the women of Reda Troupe in a scene from Agazet Nos el Sana, performing a dance in which they portray sugar dolls. Sugar dolls are traditionally sold at markets in Cairo for the Eid Mawlid al-Nabi holiday. Click on the image to see more detail.

Sugar Dolls

 

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Gharam fil-Karnak
(Love in Karnak)

Gharam fil-Karnak was Reda Troupe's second movie, released in 1965. The title means "Love in Karnak". Ali Reda, the husband of Farida Fahmy and the brother of Mahmoud Reda directed it.

The Story

The plot tells of a young man named Salah (portrayed by Reda) who starts his own dance company. He leads his troupe to the city of Luxor for their debut performance at the Temple of Karnak.

His star dancer, Amina (portrayed by Farida Fahmy), is in love with him, but he spurns her because he believes she is promised to someone else.

A local petty bureaucrat tries to block the troupe from obtaining the equipment they need to build their stage at the temple. For a while, it looks as though all this confusion will ruin the show, but all is well in the end.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda dance a duet in a scene early in the movie, where Farida's character is doing her audition for a place in the dance company. Click on the image to see more detail.

Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda

Cast Members of Note

Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy star as the two lead characters.

Several of the songs in the film were performed by Mohamed el-Ezabi. At the time this movie was made, he was already a prominent popular singer. He was the original artist to popularize the song "Oyoun Baheya".

One of the Reda Troupe women performing in the dance scenes was a young Raqia Hassan, who later went on to become a popular raqs sharqi teacher and choreographer.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Mohamed el-Ezabi (on the left) sings the song "Luxor Baladna". It was this movie that made the song a major hit, and it remains popular today, especially in Luxor. Click on the image to see more detail.

Luxor Baladna

The Inspiration

This movie was produced several years after Reda Troupe's 1959 debut, after the dance company had already become well established.

Reda says he received the inspiration for this movie when Reda Troupe traveled to Luxor to do a show at the temple of Karnak. At night, standing among the towering columns in the moonlight, Reda felt moved to create a movie that would feature a dream sequence of his troupe dancing for an ancient Pharaoh. This was woven into the plot of the movie.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This is a still from the dream sequence in which Reda's dancers perform for the Pharaoh. At the beginning of the scene, Reda's character tells the priest that he and his troupe came to play. The priest replies that dance is not play. It is the most important thing in life, and if you get it right you will be exalted, but if you get it wrong, you will be beheaded! Click on the image to see more detail.

Pharaoh

 

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Harami el Waraka
(Thief of the Lottery Ticket)

Harami el-Waraka was Reda Troupe's third movie, released in 1970. The title means "Thief of the Lottery Ticket". Ali Reda, the husband of Farida Fahmy and the brother of Mahmoud Reda, directed it.

The Story

Mahmoud Reda's character is a dancer in a cabaret who loves to buy lottery tickets.

A thief steals a purse from a woman (portrayed by Naglaa Fateh) who had purchased a lottery ticket, and resells her lottery ticket to Reda's character. In reporting the theft to the police, the woman tells them the numbers she used — numbers that were personally meaningful to her.

The lottery ticket turns out to be the winning one. Reda's character goes to the bank to cash it in, and is arrested by the police for stealing the purse. Naturally, this creates much confusion which the rest of the movie is spent trying to resolve.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Naglaa Fathy and Mahmoud Reda dance a duet in a scene from the movie. Click on the image to see more detail.

Reda and Fathy

Trivia

Although Farida Fahmy does perform a dance in this movie, her role is minor. That's why she doesn't consider this to be a Reda Troupe movie.

This movie was released in black and white instead of color. At that time, the Egyptian government owned the cinema industry, and therefore the Egyptian Ministry of Culture produced this movie. The Ministry of Culture wanted to cancel the project because they didn't have enough money to fund it. Reda insisted on moving forward with it, and the compromise was to settle for making it in black and white, which was significantly less expensive to produce than color.

Raqia Hassan was one of the group of four ensemble dancers.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This is a still from Harami al-Waraka. On the right are Mahmoud Reda and Naglaa Fathy. Raqia Hassan is one of the dancers in the group of four women on the left. Click on the image to see more detail.

Group

 

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Other Notes About Reda Movies

The three movies described in this article are the only Reda Troupe movies that were made. Although Reda consulted on other projects, created choreography for some, and performed in some, these three were the only ones that featured full Reda Troupe performances.

There is some confusion regarding who some of the other Reda Troupe dancers were appearing in these movies. Some people mistakenly believe that Dr. Mo Geddawi appeared in them. According to Reda, Geddawi left Reda troupe after 3 years, in 1962, when he moved to Germany. This was before the first movie, Agazet Nos el Sana, was made, and Geddawi did not appear in it or any of the ones that followed. It is possible, however, to see Raqia Hassan appearing in Gharam fi al-Karnak and Harami al-Waraka.

At the time this interview occurred (July 2006), it was not possible to find Reda movies available for purchase in Egypt, neither on VHS tape nor on DVD. In the U.S., one vendor (who is no longer in business) offered Gharam fi al-Karnak on VHS tape with English subtitles. It wasn't a very good print. The colors were faded, one scene appeared in the wrong place, the image was slightly blurred, and the package showed photos that were taken from a source other than the movie inside. Still, for those who love Egyptian dance, the print was high enough quality to enjoy its entertaining music, story, characters, and dance.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This photo shows a scene from the movie Gharam fil-Karnak in which the dancers are performing hagalla.

Hagalla

 

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Related Articles

Shira has written additional articles based on the interview. Some have not yet been posted online. This section will be updated once they are available.

 

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Mahmoud Reda for making himself available for the interview on which this article is based. He was most patient in answering my many questions and clarifying points for me when necessary.

I would like to thank Maleeha and Kahraman Near East Dance Ensemble for their important role in making this interview possible.

The material in this article originally appeared in print in Zaghareet Magazine, in 2007.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: I took this photo of Mahmoud Reda in July, 2006, the day of the interview.

Mahmoud Reda in 2006

 

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